Tamara Mannelly

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To say that the world is going to hell in a handbasket wouldn’t be a complete exaggeration. Not a single day passes that the news doesn’t paint a picture of America that’s more hopeless and cruel than the day before. You need only chat with your family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers to be made startlingly aware of the effect that this is having on our collective mental health. What’s worse is that even children aren’t immune to the pain and ferociousness of all the -isms and phobias that seem to be running unchecked through society.

In the past few months I’ve had to take a couple social media and news hiatuses in order to drum up the energy I needed to keep fighting the good fight — and chances are you have too. However, it’s equally important we extend these respites to our children as well. They are becoming equally as overstimulated and overwhelmed as we are, and they need an opportunity to spend time just being kids. Here are seven ways you can take a break together:

Sign off Social Media

Despite the many upsides of social media, it can also have negative effects. According to Rutgers University, continued use of social media can add to body image and depression issues in teens. Apparently, even just passively looking at the profiles, posts, and photos of other people can cause feelings of sadness, loneliness, and exclusion. Of course, social media is also where the majority of Americans get their news — and the news hasn’t been particularly good lately.

Consider taking a break from social media for a day or two. This may not be the easiest thing when it comes to your teens and tweens, so it might take a little doing. Start by uninstalling social media apps from phones and tablets to stave off the temptation to just “take a quick peek.” For desktops or laptops, you can install website-blocking extensions (check the Chrome store — there are tons of options!). Once you have social media down for the day, move on to the next step.

Turn off the Television

Some households have cable or satellite television, while others rely on streaming services to view their favorite shows. Regardless of what particular brand of television you subscribe to, there is going to be some form of news on demand — and as I said a couple paragraphs ago, the news isn’t exactly the most cheerful form of entertainment available these days. It’s not easy to go completely screen-free, even for a day, but sometimes it’s what we need to hit the reset button on our emotions and get a fresh perspective on life.

Even if your kids don’t appreciate it in the moment, it’s likely they will in the long run.

Turn on Some Music

Music is surprisingly good for us — it produces positive physiological reactions, such as improved respiration, pulse, and blood pressure. An impromptu jam session/dance party is a great way to bond with your kids and shake the weight of the world off your shoulders. Spend an hour or so making a playlist together and then get your groove on. For extra laughs, teach your kids how to do dance moves from days gone by (the Charleston, the twist, the Macarena, and so on).

Get Back to Nature

There is just something so amazing about breathing fresh air and taking in the beauty of the natural world. Kids are particularly fond of the outdoors, and taking them on a nature walk is a fantastic way to spend the day together. Grab some backpacks and load them up with water, snacks, tweezers, bug nets, specimen jars, notebooks, and pencils. It doesn’t matter where you go — be it an out of the way hiking trail or a well-travelled city park — there’s tons to see and document. Consider bringing home leaves and flowers you find on your journey and letting the kids make a collage!

Get Lost in a Book

Is there anything better than curling up with a good book? Depending on the age of your children, there are a couple of ways to go about reading together. If your kids are still small, let them pick out a stack of their favorite books and spend the day reading them aloud together. If you have teens or tweens, choose a book you’ll both enjoy, read separately, and then discuss what you’ve read — sort of like a mini book club. If you have mixed ages, grab a small chapter book and read it aloud to the group. Keep them engaged by having them draw a picture that represents a scene in each chapter.

Break out the Board Games

Thanks to a sudden resurgence of public interest, there are an abundance of board games available for every age group. Board games are particularly beneficial for younger children, as they teach:

  • Number, letter, color, and shape recognition
  • Grouping
  • Counting
  • Reading
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Communicating verbally
  • Sharing
  • Waiting
  • Taking turns

For younger children, your goal should be to help your child become more self-confident, ambitious, and to enjoy playing with others. For older children, you’ll want to focus on teaching values, ethics, and the importance of playing by the rules. So, grab a few games, gather round the kitchen table with plenty of snacks, and get playing.

Go on an Indoor Camping Adventure

This time of year isn’t exactly conducive to camping outdoors — but that doesn’t mean camping is off the table completely! Set up a tent in your living room and fill it with sleeping bags, pillows, and lots of fluffy blankets. Roast marshmallows in the oven to make delicious smores; use flashlights inside the tent to tell scary stories; and have a picnic breakfast on the living room floor the following morning. It may not seem like much, but I guarantee your kids will love every last minute of it.

Life is tough sometimes, and society in general can seem like a scary, awful place. That’s why it’s so important to take a few days off now and again to give both your kids and yourself a break from the troubles of the world. So, turn off your screens, go for a nature walk, play some board games, and read a good book — it will do your whole family good.

Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter@LizVGreene.

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